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Quality of relationship is key for GPs to win the trust of patients

Patients' trust in GPs is unrelated to how long they have been registered with a practice or how often they consult with their usual GP, new research has found.

Overall, three-quarters of patients had a high level of trust in their regular GP, the study concluded.

Communication, interpersonal care and knowledge of the patient were identified as the most important factors in gaining patients' confidence.

Patients from a minority ethnic group reported lower levels of trust in their GP than white patients.

Carolyn Tarrant, researcher at the University of Leicester department of general practice and an author of the study, said patients' trust came from 'less measurable aspects of the interaction with the doctor'.

She added: 'It's things to do with the quality of the relationship that encourage trust. A relationship does not need to be developed over a period of time or through frequent contact.'

Fellow author Dr Tim Stokes, senior lecturer in general practice at the university, said patients' perceptions of their relationship with their GP were most important.

The findings ease fears that the new contract, under which patients are registered with a practice rather than an individual GP, could damage continuity of care.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC negotiator, said the results were 'encouraging and interesting', but added that further research was needed once the contract was in place to back the findings.

'I expect it will be true,' he said. 'What they are saying is very plausible but you can't yet say it definitely means the contract will not affect continuity of care because the research has to be done again.'

The study, published in the October British Journal of General Practice, surveyed 1,369 patients at 10 practices in one PCT in the East Midlands, using the General Practice Assessment Survey (GPAS).

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